The 9 Common Performance Review Mistakes You're Probably Doing

3 min read
Jun 17, 2015

Optimized-iStock_000046010796_SmallPerformance reviews. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re here to stay.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, about 90% of all organizations conduct performance appraisals even though research continues to show that the majority of employees dislike performance evaluation.

In fact, a 2013 Globoforce study found that 63% of employees don’t think reviews are a “true indicator of performance.” With that in mind, how do managers conduct a review in a way that’s effective for the organization without further alienating employees? Start by steering clear of these nine mistakes:

  • Using a one-sided review: If a review is coming from one person, it’s easy to think of it as a subjective viewpoint rather than an objective evaluation. That same Globoforce study found that 40% of employees dislike the review process because they feel it represents one point of view. Make reviews more well-rounded whether through self-evaluation or the addition of peer-to-peer reviews.

  • Focusing on the negative: Nobody likes to be told that they’re doing something wrong, but the criticism feels sharper when it’s not balanced out by anything positive. Even if your intent is to help the employee improve for the next round of reviews, this gets lost in the sea of negativity that the employee hears.

  • Skirting the negative: It’s just as bad to only have good things to say, no matter how fantastic an employee is. Don’t skim over a potential issue because you feel bad or don’t want to be confrontational. Employees don’t have a chance to correct the course if they don’t even know they’re heading in the wrong direction.

  • Evaluating personality: A performance review should be about just that. This isn’t to say that bad behavior at work shouldn’t be addressed, but don’t equate behavior with personality. Saying an employee is “outspoken” or “shows attitude” isn’t the same thing as pointing out that an employee is rude to customers on the phone. Only the latter is actually performance-related.

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  • The recency effect: Let’s imagine your employee has been performing above average over the review period but screwed up on a big project in the past month. If your review focuses solely (or mostly) on this recent event to the detriment of their overall performance, that’s the recency bias.

  • Rating employees: If you’re giving employees a rating on a five-point scale, consider another way. This isn’t the Olympics, and a “technical” score demeans employees. More importantly, scales don’t properly capture the fine distinctions, and perfectly acceptable middle-of-the-road scores end up reading as mediocrity.

  • Vague feedback: Nothing is worse than a few platitudes like “hard worker” and “dependable” or criticism like “poor team player” without any specific examples to back them up. Make feedback as clear-cut possible and steer clear of overly ambiguous statements, both positive and negative.

  • Ignoring the bigger picture: Your employee’s work doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and ignoring larger issues, whether personal or work-related, makes the review and the manager seem out of touch with reality. Is your employee’s quality dropping because they’re doing the work of three people? Don’t overlook that fact in the review.

  • No follow-up: Technically this should happen after a review, but you might as well start thinking about it during the process. Since 70% of employees believe reviews should help them develop and grow, this is the time to help them set goals. Still, without follow-up, any goals you set during the review are left unguided until the next review.

When you avoid these mistakes, you take a thoughtful, balanced, and nuanced approach to performance reviews, making them a more effective process.



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